I used to be a BIG fan of the Christopher Nolan movies. Huge! Way, way back, a million years ago, I even wrote an article wondering what it would be like if Inception was analyzed by dream experts, and that’s because I was so in love with Inception when it first came out. Still am, actually. In fact, I’ve since seen the movie over 10 times now, and each time, I find something new to geek over and appreciate. And do you know why? Because Inception is Christopher Nolan’s best movie and I honestly can’t see anything topping it.
I say that since I haven’t really been all that impressed by Christopher Nolan’s movies as of late. I wrote a number of articles on his latest film, Tenet. And while I understand why some people love that movie, like our very own Sean O’Connell, I was definitively in the, “No, thank you,” camp. But upon re-watching it, I came to appreciate Inception even more since Tenet is even worse than I remember it being. Not better. I actually have 5 reasons why Inception will likely always be Christopher Nolan’s best movie, and I’d like to share them with you. Care to dream a little dream with me?
All Of The Characters Feel Relevant To The Story
Here’s the thing about Christopher Nolan movies—Concept sometimes gets in the way of story. I don’t know if I really felt this back with his earlier films like Memento or The Prestige (God, I love The Prestige), but I definitely felt that way with Interstellar, Dunkirk, and (Dear, God) Tenet. In fact, I’m not even sure if Nolan put much thought into the characters in Dunkirk, as it felt more like a series of events set to a ticking clock rather than a story about the men and women who endured the war. And the protagonist of Tenet is just called, er, The Protagonist, so I definitely feel like the concepts have now, more than ever before, taken center stage in Christopher Nolan’s movies.
But Inception has a pretty big cast, and every one of the characters feels meaningful. If you’ll check out the “Dream Experts” article above, I went step-by-step with how each character was so much deeper than they might have let on to be, and they all felt essential to the plot, which was still a BIG IDEA story. Like I said earlier, I have seen Inception 10 times, and with each time, I find that I follow a different character throughout their journey down the rabbit hole. In the end, all of them are worth following, which is what makes this film so special.
The Realistic Approach That Nolan Is Known For Actually Feels Unique In These Action Sequences
I love dreams! Anything goes, as you can be at your job one moment, and then riding on the back of Godzilla the next. And it all makes sense… while you’re dreaming, of course. But Christopher Nolan, who even made a movie about a man fighting crime in a bat suit into a (mostly) thrilling trilogy of crime dramas was never going to make dreams as ridiculous as they could potentially be. Instead, he made something of a sort of dreamy, quasi-James Bond film, and it all worked, really, really well.
In fact, I don’t think anybody else could have made dreams seem as clinical and business-like as Christopher Nolan, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. In fact, I admire it. The realistic approach to everything, including a city folding in on itself, and that bonkers hallway fight feels incredibly unique because it’s so dreamlike, but also so matter-of-fact at the same time. It’s like the kind of dream a genius might have who realizes that they’re dreaming and finds a way to control it. This makes for a film that feels totally unique in the sphere of dream fiction. Compare it to a movie like Paprika and you’ll see what I mean.
The Plot Is Cerebral But Easy Enough To Follow
You know why I really don’t like Tenet? Because it doesn’t really consider every viewer. Now, I’m not saying that Christopher Nolan should have dumbed down Tenet so that a dumb-dumb like me could actually understand it, but… actually, maybe I am saying that. Christopher Nolan should have dumbed down Tenet so that even a dumb-dumb like me could understand it. And here’s the thing! I’m not dumb! I’m an attentive viewer, and I always read the subtitles just so I can make sure I don’t miss anything.
But you know what? Inception doesn’t have that problem. Yes, it’s a very cerebral film, but it’s not hard to follow. These dream thieves who typically steal ideas are going into somebody’s head to plant one instead. If you understood that sentence, then you’ll understand Inception. It’s the kind of movie where you actually feel smart for comprehending it all, and I feel that most any audience attendant could get some kind of enjoyment out of it. I’ll compare it to Tetris, as it’s easy to pick up, but a challenge to master. That’s Inception for you. Inception is Tetris. So, I guess Tenet would be Death Stranding then, asking a lot out of you and offering little reward for your hard work. And if you understood those last few sentences, I love you.
It Has An Ambiguous Ending That People Still Talk About Today, Giving The Film Legs
Is Cobb still dreaming? Is he awake? I don’t know. What do you think? Well, Cinemablend has done multiple articles trying to solve the mysteries of the Inception ending, so I think it’s safe to say that the ambiguous ending has made the film live on long after its release, which is awesome. I love ambiguous endings! One of my favorite movies of all time is Total Recall and it has a similar conclusion. To this day, I debate people on that ending, and the same goes for Inception.
In fact, I probably debate more people about Inception’s ending, which gives this film extremely long legs. I’ve heard both sides of the totem as to why Cobb is either awake or asleep, and both sides have convinced me with their analysis. And this just shows that the film lives outside of Nolan’s filmography. It’s not just a film on his resume like Insomnia or Batman Begins. It’s a film where you might not even know that Christopher Nolan directed it and still have deeply rooted ideas about what that ending means. That said…
Inception Is The Quintessential Christopher Nolan Movie
Not too long ago, I talked about how Pulp Fiction is the quintessential Tarantino movie, and I have the same feelings about Inception for Christopher Nolan. Honestly, even though movies like Following and Insomnia would prove otherwise, the first two words that comes to my mind when I think of Christopher Nolan are “high concept”. And Inception is of the highest concept. Even so, prior to The Dark Knight Rises, which is where I kind of think Nolan’s downfall from greatness began, I would also say that Nolan was a genius for sticking believable, interesting characters into those high concept stories with aplomb. Honestly, prior to The Dark Knight Rises, you probably couldn’t find a bigger Christopher Nolan fan than me.
And Inception just feels so distinctly Christopher Nolan that it hurts. The suits, the big idea, the characters, the pacing, the loud sounds that weren’t an annoyance but actually benefited the story. All around, Inception is just the quintessential Christopher Nolan movie, and whenever I start to doubt why I even loved him as a director in the first place, I just have to watch Inception again, and it will all come back to me. I miss that Christopher Nolan.
In the end, Christopher Nolan's more recent films are… fine, I guess. But what do you think? Is Inception Christopher Nolan’s best movie? Sound off in the poll below!
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Lover of Avatar (The Last Airbender, not the blue people), video games, and anything 90s, he will talk your ear off about Godzilla, so don't get him started.
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